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04 Dec 2018

Former AMA President Dr Kerryn Phelps AM now adds MP to her name, having won the federal seat of Wentworth in the recent byelection caused by the resignation from the electorate of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Dr Phelps ran as an independent in the formerly safe Liberal seat in Sydney Harbour’s southern shore.

In an upset win, she became the first non-Liberal Party member for Wentworth since 1944, and has pushed the Coalition into minority Government.

She is also the fist woman of the Jewish faith elected to the House of Representatives.

In her first speech to Parliament on November 26, Dr Phelps called for a “compassionate compromise” for refugee children and their families on Nauru.

“Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers is a source of shame and sorrow for me and for many thousands of my medical colleagues and other Australians,” she said.

“This cruel treatment of asylum-seekers asking Australia for help… ignores the human experience at the heart of the policy of offshore processing and indefinite confinement on Manus Island and Nauru.

“No longer can we tolerate our Government holding the lives of these children and their families to ransom to make a point about maritime arrivals. Yes, we need strong border protection. But it is not — and must not be — a choice between deaths at sea and indefinite offshore confinement.

“There is a mismatch between what the Australian Government has been doing and what the majority of the people of Australia want, and this must be resolved. We must find a compassionate compromise.”

Dr Phelps also used her first speech to call for urgent action on climate change.

“We have to think about the human experience that will result from failure to take action,” she said.

“The imminent disappearance of island nations like Kiribati or Tuvalu, altered food supply, drought, floods, increases in water-borne and insect-borne diseases.

“The people most vulnerable to the effects of climate change will be children, the poor, the sick, the elderly.”

Dr Phelps is a high-profile activist for marriage equality and human rights.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and most of his front bench Ministers, left the chamber before Dr Phelps delivered her speech.

The AMA has congratulated Dr Phelps on her election win.

CHRIS JOHNSON


Published: 04 Dec 2018